Thursday, May 23, 2019

As Minister Departs Still Nothing Has Been Done About Road Haulage Vehicles Need for Parking

Freight Group Demands Promises are Kept Over Truck Stops as Situation Worsens
Shipping News Feature
UK – A year after the (now former) roads minister Jesse Norman MP made a commitment to increase the provision of lorry parking places on the strategic road network, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is calling on the Department for Transport (DfT) to deliver on this promise after a new survey indicated that road haulage truck drivers believe the situation has actually worsened in the past 12 months.

In the day since the FTA made this appeal, Jesse Norman was appointed as Paymaster General and Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He was previously Minister of State at the Department for Transport from November 2018 to May 2019. Before that, he was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport from June 2017 to November 2018.

Michael Ellis has subsequently been named to take over as Minister of State at the DfT. He previously served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from January 2018 to May 2019.

The safe parking of trucks is no little matter, with drivers committed to mandatory breaks equating to 45 minutes during their daily shifts, and stringent overnight sleeping rules, the inability to do so is rendering them liable to prosecution. It additionally leads to some insane situations particularly when foreign drivers, unfamiliar with British regulations, park with alacrity on the hard shoulders of motorways.

Possibly an even more serious note is the paucity of secure truck stops with some well-known places a hotbed of overnight crime, trailers broken into, drivers assaulted. The situation is not confined to the UK, many US readers will remember the tragic case of Jason Rivenburg, murdered for $7 when, unable to reach a bona fide truck stop he had to park in an abandoned gas station.

The FTA says it supports the work Highways England has undertaken over the past year to identify potential new sites for rest and service areas for commercial drivers, but is urging government to take immediate action to protect the health and wellbeing of the nation’s logistics operators. Despite writing twice to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government to ask them what they are doing to deliver additional spaces, the FTA says that it has received no reply. Elizabeth de Jong, Director of UK Policy at the FTA, commented:

“Logistics is the beating heart of the nation’s economy. In an industry where you are compelled by law to take regular breaks and rest, it is vital that government is pressing forward with its stated intention to improve and expand the provision of facilities for those charged with keeping Britain trading. No other industry would be expected to operate in such conditions, and it is now down to government to deliver on its promises.

“No logistics operator wants to be parking on industrial estates, in laybys or on public roads, but often this is the only option as a result of no available alternative parking. London and the South East were the two areas identified as having the biggest shortfall in spaces, but the problem is prevalent nationwide.

“We want government to deliver its promises to professional drivers to provide the sort of safe, secure and appropriate rest areas which the industry needs so that we can continue to deliver what the nation needs, as and when necessary. A year on from Mr Norman’s commitment, it is now time for action – the nation’s HGV drivers deserve a break.”

Nearly all of the respondents to a survey conducted by the FTA of its member organisations felt there had been no improvement in the facilities for drivers on local roads, and over half of them felt that the provision had become worse. More than 70% of respondents felt that the lack of available spaces for parking is the biggest issue facing them during their working day, a shortage which often causes friction with local residents and businesses when drivers are forced to stop away from secure parking areas.

The Department for Transport’s own National Survey of Lorry Parking identified that there is an immediate need for more than 1,411 parking spaces across the country, to enable drivers to take their legally mandated rest breaks without concerns for security and safety. In the South East, 37% more overnight parking spaces are required immediately to cover the requirements of Britain’s burgeoning logistics sector. De Jong continued:

“We are a trading nation and much of our trade moves by road. Yet enforcement action continues to be taken against those who cannot find a place to stop in a designated lorry park, through no fault of their own. It is time that government delivered on its commitment for more parking spaces, to ensure that the sector can continue to fulfil the nation’s need for goods and services in a timely, efficient and healthy manner, without penalty for the hardworking drivers behind the wheel.”